Raving About Roger Corman's The Raven (1963) Every October my daughter
and I pick up a few spooky movies to get into the Halloween groove.
This year, I had the pleasure of introducing her to one of my all time
favorite horror comedy classics, Director Roger Corman's "The Raven."
The screenplay is adapted (VERY loosely) from the famous Edgar Allan
Poe poem. This is one of Corman's many American International Picture
adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's works, and one of his best.
As the king of "b" horror movies, Corman knew had to make the most out of a tight budget. His stylish films consistently used good source material, well written screenplays, lavish set designs, locations, props, costumes and great horror stars. "The Raven" boasts no less a cast than Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Jack Nicholson, and 60's scream queen Helen Court a mind boggling cast given that this is a low budget film.
Pairing horror legends Price, Lorre, and Karloff was indeed a momentous occasion and the stars make the most of it. Any semblance to Poe's Gothic poem pretty much ends after Vincent Price reads the first few lines (brilliantly recited despite its brevity) at the intro of the movie. Afterwards, screenplay writer Richard Matheson takes the sombre mood of the original poem and turns it on its ear with his original comic screenplay.
At the outset of the film, we learn that Price's character (Dr.Craven a wizard) has lost his wife Lenore (Helen Court) and has long mourned her loss. He's interrupted in the midst of his grief by "a tapping at his door." Price opens the door to find himself confronted by a raven (Peter Lorre). The raven, it turns out, can talk and is actually a rascally wizard named Dr Bedlo who has been enchanted by the evil wizard Dr Scarabus (Boris Karloff). He entreats the amazed doctor to help him become a man again.
Richard Matheson's screenplay provides the actors with some wonderful comedy dialog with which to work. Price and Lorre had been previous teamed in Tales of Terror, and their styles blend beautifully together they are a scream! They set about concocting a potion in set designer Daniel's Haller's creepily atmospheric dungeon. After much fumbling, Price finally manages to restore Lorre's human head, but his body remains that of a giant human sized raven. Seeing Lorre strut his stuff in the Big Bird raven costume is almost worth the DVD price by itself! Once restored, Lorre swears revenge on Dr Scarabus. He asks for Price's help. But the doctor refuses until Lorre's character spots a portrait of Price's long lost wife and remarks that he's seen the woman at Scarabus' castle. The two set off for the castle along with Price's daughter (Olive Sturgess) and Bedlo's son (played by a young delightfully hammy Jack Nicholson).
When Lorre and Price reach the castle, the fireworks begin figuratively and literally. It's clear these three horror icons are having the time of their lives, hilariously spoofing their monster screen personas. Dated special effects (though fine for their day) detract little from the final magical showdown between Karloff and Price.
I never get sick of seeing this movie and happily give it a rave review! Grab the popcorn and enjoy.
Rob Rheubottom Winnipeg, MB Canada
Action / Comedy / Fantasy / Horror
Action / Comedy / Fantasy / Horror
In this tongue-in-cheek movie inspired by Poe's poem, Dr. Craven is the son of a great sorcerer (now dead) who was once himself quite skilled at that profession, but has since abandoned it. One evening, a cowardly fool of a magician named Bedlo comes to Craven for help - the evil Scarabus has turned him into a raven and he needs someone to change him back. He also tells the reluctant wizard that Craven's long-lost wife Lenore, whom he loved greatly and thought dead, is living with the despised Scarabus.
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October 14, 2014 at 02:37 AM